As I set up my calendar for the month, I select a quote I’ve found that speaks to me. I write it in my planner and leave space below it to capture phrases I hear or read that speak to me and relate to the quote. I found this practice centers me throughout the month, and helps me be more present in my conversations, meetings, and readings. For January 2024 my quote was: “Tension is who you think you should be. Relaxation is who you are.”
I love the start of something new. The fresh energy at the starting point. The contentment of getting organized and prepared. The hope for what is to come. Anticipation and trepidation swirled together in a delightful cocktail. This January, I got a different perspective. I saw the beauty of the end of something done amazingly well. This January, my father passed away after a decade of Alzheimer’s. Appreciation and loss raged in an emotional Tsunami. Throughout the month here are the quotes, lyrics, and phrases that that caught my attention:
- We have magic to make
- Sometimes just getting up and carrying on is a brave and meaningful act
- Be exactly where you are and be grateful
- My grief is tremendous but my love is bigger
- Beloved is where we begin
- He can hear your heart
- Never wait to explore joy and open our arms to love
- A perfectly imperfect bundle of curiosity, mayhem, and unintended bliss
- Nourish and comfort
- Misery might love company, but so does joy – and joy throws much better parties
- Release the suck
- It’s time for new
- We’re all just walking each other home
- Be at ease
January’s quote, picked unknowingly in December of what lay ahead, fit more than I could have predicted. As I abruptly stepped away from the tensions of work, community service, and the “shoulda’s,” and became emersed in the end of life of one of the two most influential people in my life. I relaxed into me. My focus no longer split or tied up in comparisons, but simplified into what was needed now, with him, for mom. My stress soared and prayers got longer; however, there was an undercurrent of ease. I faced the target in front of me without concern for image, “best practices,” or tradition. I let others step in to address the fray around me. The rest fell away.
Being fully myself in the moment let me experience it all, the fear and frantic to the tender and tears, and the magic and memories in between. And yes, the joy. The joy of sitting for hours holding his hand. The joy of his apology for being “a little shit” as I cleaned and dressed him. The joy of his rally and return of the sparkle in his eyes, interaction, and laughter. The joy of finding him pajamas with squirrels on them to keep him cozy. The joy of him looking at me directly in the eye after a squabble and declaring with resolution, “damn, you are just like me” – I beamed with pride and chuckled. The joy of the caregiver learning curve I had with mom and big laughs that resulted. The joy of seeing an expert, compassionate hospice team swoop in to care for him and support my mother gracefully. The joy of mom, dad, brother, and me all together in a quite prayer-filled moment the night before he died.
There is tension (maybe the better word is stress, worry, or overwhelm) that remains, but it centers on what to do next, not how to be. For that I will continue to look to my dad for guidance as explained in my eulogy at his funeral:
Over the past year staying at my parent’s house, I constantly replied to mom, “well, you know I am half you and half dad.” For which I’m grateful.
So now I will cry my emotions like mom and hopefully share the words like dad.
I will not tell you about who he was because you all knew. You knew from his words. You knew from his deeds. You knew from his faith-lived life.
Instead, I will share with you my last conversation with him. I awoke at 7am and listened to the baby monitor set up in his room. His breath clear and rhythmic. I did this often. Matching my breath to his to connect when words were not an option. Breathing together, in sync. Dad and Daddy’s Girl.
This time I noticed his cadence was different, quicker. I went to his room and listened more closely. I gave him his medication, and as the sun rose and warmed the sky, I leaned over and whispered in his ear, “be at ease.”
I went back to bed to get a little more rest. Twenty minutes later I woke up suddenly, listened to the monitor. Silence. He was gone. At peace.
So, in his honor, I give you this charge and meditation: Be at ease.
May you be at ease in the life God created for you.
May you be at ease in your career and volunteering – sharing your gifts with your community.
May you be at ease in the relationships that surround you… or be at ease to leave them and find those where you can.
May you be at ease with those who are different… welcoming unique, confronting tradition, celebrating diversity.
May you be at ease with those in crisis… holding their hand, sitting in silence, handing them a hankie.
May you be at ease in a faith that can be hard to follow.
May you be at ease in mourning, knowing that the pain and tears come from love.
May you be at ease to use your voice to protect and advocate for those in fear, in loss, in turmoil, in sickness, in isolation, in discrimination, in loneliness, and in conflict.
May you be at ease to let your light shine… smile with ease, laugh with ease, hug with ease, compliment with ease, encourage with ease.
May you be at ease at the end of a good day with a bowl of ice cream.
May you be at ease to pray, sit, pray, listen, pray, and pray some more.
May you be at ease to savor the beauty of nature and the birds’ song.
May you be at ease knowing that our loved ones are all called home to be with God.
May you be at ease here today in a community of love.
May you be at ease.
May you be at ease.
May you be at ease.